Retailers running from new labour legislation

MANY small retailers have started thinning staff numbers and are considering their business viability before the Labour Relations Reform legislation becomes law in June.

Owner of Beaufort River Meats, Tony Macri, has recently sacked his entire staff of 70 and is currently weighing up his options.

“There were a couple of factors, including seasonal ones, that were part of the decision. You’ve got the award changes, this unfair dismissal garbage going on and talk of paid maternity leave,” Mr Macri said.

“We put people off temporarily and are reassessing our options.”

Mr Macri also operates a small seven-day

trading supermarket, Foodworks Fresh Forrestfield, and, with expectations of paying staff $30 an hour on Sundays, is hoping to secure new Australian Workplace Agreements with members of his staff.

“The big problem at the moment for seven-days-a-week retail businesses is the after-hours time. We’re now on workplace agreements, which is working well, and I’m looking at getting a Federal agreement otherwise it won’t be viable to open on Sundays,” he said.

Mr Macri said if he could not get an AWA he would look at options such as using family members to work on the weekends.

“The Government must look at a retail award rate for seven-days-a-week operators,” Mr Macri said.

WA Retailers Association chief executive officer Martin Dempsey said there was uncertainty surrounding the impact of the Labour Relations Reform Bill, but that it was a mixture of political and economic factors causing many small retailers to question their operations.

“There is a fear of an uncertain future. Interest rates are starting to increase, costs are going up,” Mr Dempsey said.

WA Independent Grocers Association president John Cummings, who also owns two Dewsons Supermarkets, said the award needed to be more equitable.

“We are in the process of negotiating an Enterprise Bargaining Agreement with the union, which may be fine for Dewsons, but what about the newsagent or the bakery,” he said.

Mr Cummings said the structure of the award eroded the competitive advantage of the small seven-days-a-week traders and is calling for the Government to look at the award structure.

“I’m hoping the Government will see the inequities in the system and do something about it. We find it perplexing that the Labor Party says it will embrace small business when it’s closing our doors,” he said.

Shop Distributive and Allied Employees Association of WA (SDA) general secretary Joe Bullock said the legislation brought WA into line with other States, where the system was in place nearly a decade ago.

“Before 1993 every retailer was bound by the State award, which set up a minimum standard of pay for shop assistants, but employers were free to pay more,” he said.

“What is proposed now is exactly what they do in all other States where the award is the minimum standard of pay.”

Mr Bullock said the union would be happy to sit down with individual businesses or groups of businesses to discuss the option of an EBA.

“We encourage them to sit down to discuss an EBA. Any group of small retailers who had a common interest we would sit down and chat with them to achieve legitimate objectives,” he said.

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